British Electric Foundation - Music Of Quality & Distinction Volume 1
I-Tunes, British, 1981
For a brief time in my world, Heaven 17 were a very important band. For one I was totally caught up in their juxtaposition of politics and pure electro-pop music. To me they were an updated version of folk-music from Greenwich Village New York, but with suits and keyboards strapped on. Also I liked their concept that their parent company was or is called British Electric Foundation, that sort of issues the Heaven 17 brand. At the time they were in theory sort of the more commercial version of Public Image LTD. One of the projects from the British Electric Foundation was their Music Of Quality & Distinction series, and this being number 1.
When I got this album, I was totally intrigued on numerous levels. On one level, it is Heaven 17 with interesting cast of characters doing their favorite songs. But knowing their political point of view, I also saw it as a political statement of some sort, which to this day is very vague. Nevertheless this album recorded in 1981, features songs from the ’60’s to the early ’70’s. The ’70’s work being David Bowie and Lou Reed songs. So there is a glam aspect to the package, with Reed, Bowie, and having Gary Glitter (the king of glam?) doing an Elvis cover.
I get the feeling that B.E.F. chose their artists for this album for both musical reasons as well as a cultural iconic stance. A statement of some sort. Tina Turner’s recording of “Ball of Confusion” started her even bigger career in the ’80’s and also brought forward ’60’s icon Sandie Shaw as well to the soup that is this album. The Shadows’ legendary guitar player Hank Marvin plays on “It’s Over,” the great Roy Orbison song, here sung by the equally fantastic Billy MacKenzie.
The talents of Ian Craig Marsh and Martyn Ware (with their singer Glenn Gregory) made an interesting observation on music-past. All the song selections are very much in-tuned to the world of Human League as well as Heaven 17 (of course). A fascinating record of its time that still sounds good.